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Poster: Dark Moon Date: Feb 26, 2009 3:22pm
Forum: Americana Subject: Re: Serious lack of browsing ability here - when will it equal a physical library's browsability?

I signed up for an IA account specifically so I could add to this thread. Correct me if I am wrong, but it appears that IA has made no improvements to search capabilities in the more-than-a-year since this conversation took place, despite EBCinNYC's very valid points. That is disappointing. I thought it might be helpful to point out some resources that should be available and might be of use to you. First, though, I hope to persuade you of something.

Some years ago, I attended a library school in pursuit of a Masters degree in Library and Information Science that would have been suitable for employment at an academic (university or college) library. Though I did not complete the program, I still managed to absorb the central mindset and key concepts of the field.

The whole purpose of the information professions and the reason for their existence is to make it possible for people to *FIND* the information they are seeking. A huge collection like yours is USELESS if people cannot FIND what they need or want in it. In order for an information retrieval system to be effective, people need to be shown what fits their search criteria, and not be overwhelmed with a flood of irrelevant (or even marginally relevant) search results. Toward that end, librarians and other information professionals have worked on developing ways to organize resources based upon studies of how people go about seeking information. Products that incorporate this research are "on the shelf" and available for your use.

Users need different AVENUES, what are called "access points," by which materials may be searched; title, author, and keyword searches are only SOME of the access points that have been developed. The access point most familiar to library users is SUBJECT CATALOGING, since that is the organizing principle behind call numbers, by which library stacks are arranged (consequently, browsing open stacks in a library is by definition a SUBJECT search). In cataloging records, subjects are cross-referenced to further help people find what they want. AT IA, SUBJECT CATALOGING IS *EXTREMELY* CONSPICUOUS BY ITS ABSENCE! (as are synopses or brief descriptions in some of your collections).

Your materials were donated to you by libraries; that means that they've already been cataloged. It may be possible that your contributing libraries could provide cataloging records along with the books they donate. If they will or can not provide that, you can obtain cataloging info from OCLC Worldcat at in the standard bibliographic record database format (called MARC) that libraries have been using since they first started developing on-line catalogs.

Of course, there is also plenty of user-oriented online library catalog software available that reads standard bibliographic database records, which is designed to allow users to search and/or browse by subject, title, author, etc., which produces REPEATABLE results that are sorted in ways that users can actually use. Most of this software is now designed for the user interface to be accessed through the Internet with a Web browser. You've used this software if you have ever visited an online library catalog (including OCLC Worldcat), or searched any professionally maintained archive of articles or recordings.

You can also get HELP to set up your online catalog. I can say for sure that at least one of your contributing universities, UCLA, has a library school program on campus; at least some of the librarians who work at UCLA's libraries are graduates from it. Ask them, and they can probably help you get started. The Library of Congress (another one of your contributors) is another major resource where you may be able to obtain help. Nearly every academic library in the nation uses the LC's subject classification and call number system.

If you need it, you also have FUNDING. You proudly announce on your American Libraries page that the scanning and digitizing of your collection has been sponsored in part by Microsoft, Yahoo!, and the Sloan Foundation, among others. ASSEMBLING THE COLLECTION IS ONLY HALF THE JOB, though! Yahoo! started life as a SEARCH PORTAL. Your sponsors will surely understand that the collection they are helping you build will have little value if people give up in frustration and go elsewhere because they cannot with reasonable time and effort find what they want.

I repeat, assembling a collection is only half the job. The solutions for making your collections more accessible already exist-- it is not necessary for you to hire consultants, or to reinvent the wheel. Librarians are among the most publically-minded professionals in the world, and are VERY interested in initiatives like yours. I'm sure that, if you ask, the help and resources WILL be there. If you truly believe in IA, I hope that you will avail yourselves of it.

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Poster: Hopeful Mark Date: Aug 31, 2010 7:40pm
Forum: Americana Subject: Re: Serious lack of browsing ability here - when will it equal a physical library's browsability?

I came across this site yesterday. At first I was very impressed to see so much content.
This site has so much potential. Congratulations to those of you who started the project.

This American forum but the comments apply to the entire site.

Unfortunately as others have mentioned it is almost impossible to use at the moment.
I presume the search facility works if you are looking for a particular document but otherwise I can’t find anything.

I don’t want to simply complain but…

I know it takes a lot of work to get these things working properly. But to begin with I think it would not be too difficult to put in some form of browsing function.
The browsing by library is not helpful, it is the same as having no browse capability.

You have keywords on each file, even to be able to browse by this would be a dramatic improvement. It would also be possible for users to ‘suggest’ a category, and overtime a large amount of the files will be categorized without needing a huge team of volunteers.

I think nowadays it is useful to have be able to view all file formats at the same time, thus there should be an option to browse should include all formats (text, video etc) from the entire database, and then exclude unwanted formats as desired.
There are a lot of pages on the site and not easy to navigate around. Personally I think the first page ‘

I did a search for a particular topic, and came up with around 100 entries. I know that on the internet there are a lot more ebooks than that free for download.

I believe if you make some improvements then the site will become useable, and well known (as being ‘an amazing site’). People will then become contribute more and be encouraged to add more content.

Thanks in advance
Keep up the good work.